It's always the same, isn't it?
If you so much as touch a computer then all the error dialogs that appear from then on appear with your name on them. No other details apart form your name though.
Welcome again to On-Call, The Register's weekly wander through readers' recollections of tech support traumas. This week, meet “Alan” who once had a gig as “both sysadmin and developer in charge of an image analysis system linked to microscopes for analysis of bacteria in a University hospital.” “These systems consisted of a …
I installed a GPS re-radiator (a device for taking external GPS signals and re-broadcasting them indoors) in our office a couple of weeks ago. A few days after I installed it, one of the salesmen complained that the GPS kit he was working on wasn't able to get a satellite fix- he instantly moved to blaming the re-radiator even though I pointed out to him that the error message he was getting was nothing to do with the GPS signals. So he went and stood outside in the rain for half an hour. Eventually came back in swearing and saying that he still wasn't able to get a fix and it was all the re-radiators fault. I pointed out to him that the error message he was getting indicated that he had not set up the internet connection*. Cue dim light bulb above his head.
* Yes, I could have pointed this out to him before he went and stood in the rain, but he needed to learn a lesson.
There is a Latin phrase, post hoc, ergo propter hoc -- after it, so because of it.
I like the thought that this means blaming the person who was last to touch something for whatever may be wrong with it is a tradition that goes all the way back to the Ancient Romans .....
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This was the same computer room where the on-site engineer once saw a workman on a stepladder drilling holes in the concrete ceiling. The mainframe operators were apparently unconcerned that this was taking place by the active exchangeable disk drives - whose lids were now covered in debris.
A colleague of mine had a similar story, with the difference that the workman was standing on the glass lid of one of the drives. Several microseconds after being spotted, said workman was flat on his back on the floor, as Jamie had grabbed his belt and yanked him backwards. "Any pain and damage from that will be far less than that from having your legs chopped up by broken platters mixed with glass splinters spinning at 3600rpm."
In fact we have a person here on the team who uses the mouse "upside-down". That's how they were told to do many, many years ago and can't use it any other way. That's a bit weird to witness but they do seem to manage.
Also, the rotated camera is a classic. Formerly in charge of the imaging pool of a lab, that's something I witnessed too many times to count. Heck, that's even a trick I (and others) have used repeteadly to avoid (some) image post-processing. When you have a preferred orientation in mind and the imaged object seems to have a different idea in mind, rotating the camera so that all images are oriented the same way is often the best solution.
" When you have a preferred orientation in mind and the imaged object seems to have a different idea in mind, rotating the camera so that all images are oriented the same way is often the best solution."
A microscope normally inverts the image compared. This means that when you move the specimen on the stage the image moves in the opposite direction. It's not difficult to get used to this, especially when using a mechanical stage. (I'm surprised the microscopist in the story had a problem with this.)
Cue using a microfiche reader. The lens is rotatable and has the same effect as rotating the camera in the story. If you put the fiche in the wrong way round so the text appears upside down you can just rotate the lens but then you have to move the fiche in the opposite direction to the way you want to move the image. Again, it's not difficult to adapt, at least I never found it so. But if the fiche was photographed to the writing is sideways on you have to rotate the lens a quarter turn; that fixes the image orientation but then sliding the fiche on one axis moves the image in the same direction whilst sliding it on the other axis moves it in the opposite direction.
I have a client who holds the mouse like that.
Also I sometimes have to tell clients to do that when they have inadvertently rotated the screen using whatever arcane keyboard shortcut Intel's awful GPU tray app uses, so they can open the app and rotate it back to normal.
I do believe it as, a long time ago (while in uni), I used to teach IT introduction courses to secretaries and the like who would, for the most, be using a computer for the first time in that course. Well, lo and behold, once one of the trainees had _exactly_ the same problem with using the mouse. I didn't laugh though, as so many novice mistakes were made there that it was just par for the course (no pun intended). And it was for being patient that I got to be well regarded by trainees and asked to do several such courses.
"I used to teach IT introduction courses to secretaries and the like who would, for the most, be using a computer for the first time in that course."
A former acquaintance got a job working for the Civil Service back in the day of floppies and was sent on a "computer course". The instructor began by saying "Now this is mouth A and this is mouth B"...at which she held up her hand and announced "My husband is a computer scientist, can I go home and do this without the baby talk?"
In all my time I've never heard this one before. Yay for Fridays.
It's perfectly natural. Maybe more so with some mice than others.
When I first took delivery of a mouse, I wondered why things moved the wrong way. Had I hooked it up wrong, or missed a setting? Oh, right, I'm supposed to hold it the other way round.
 From memory, 1987, with an Acorn Archimedes. None of the machines I used at work had yet acquired mice.
"rotated the mouse 180 degrees, so the 'tail' could point away from her"
In all my time I've never heard this one before. Yay for Fridays."
I sort of have in that I encountered someone who decided that the mouse lead going towards the back of the desk was impractical. If it came towards the front, she figured she could take the mouse off the desk and put it on top of the PC (that was underneath) when not in use.
I pointed out to her how the mouse would work if she did that - but she only finally accepted what I said when she actually tried it, and promptly put it back how it was before.
I think I've posted before about one of our sales staff who went to do some in-house training for some of the software we produce.
She sat with one young lady who had a wireless mouse and keyboard, and consistently, over the duration of the training period, the client would grab her mouse upside down, and then try moving it, and clicking it, and then whinge about how "she's told IT about her mouse being broken loads of times, but they never fix it".
Our salesperson said she had to hold herself back from just snatching the mouse from the client and showing her how to use it, all through the training session. She said afterwards she was rehearsing in her mind the old question: "do you still have the box your PC came in?"
do these people have five thumbs and one opposable finger?
There's always some people like this. But as a variation on the upside down screen, you can do that with many laptops (even when they are on a docking station with a proper keyboard and external monitor). CTRL ALT <down arrow> often flips the screen image through 180 degrees. An absolute joy when you find a machine somebody has walked away from without locking, if they don't know how to undo that.
"with many laptops [...] CTRL ALT <down arrow> often flips the screen image through 180 degrees"
That's a 'feature' of Intel graphics drivers back in the day across a whole different bunch of machines, desktops included. While I appreciate the functionality of being able to easily rotate the output, I wonder why they decided to have the hotkeys enabled by default because it's just easy enough to trigger that users can do it accidentally but never work out how to change it back.
The "good news" is that if you connect to the PC/laptop remotely, the image is the right way up on your screen so easy to resolve- and then disable the hotkey.
I mention this, because even though you tell them over the phone what keys you need to press to resolve it, it "doesn't work, still upside down"
Ah yes, the Intel hotkeys. I had a setting in group policy to disable the entire hotkeys/tray icon thing on classroom PCs, of course, but didn't think it was necessary to do it on staff laptops... Until one senior teacher came in one Monday morning during the school holidays with his laptop screen turned through 90° by one of his tween/early-teen sons (who, to be fair, had probably done it by accident while playing a game or something - they were nice boys and would have fixed it for him had they known what to do) and had been struggling with using it that way since Friday evening!
On a similar note, I used to leave A3000 computers at school with negative mouse-speed settings... That, of course, simply inverted it and couldn't be saved to NVRAM (although you could save a ridiculously-fast setting).
Also called the "not my problem, we have a guy for that" syndrome where people seem to actively forget how to even open a window if they reckon there might be someone they can goad into doing it for them. Often observed not only in office settings but also in households with at least one elderly relative.
"not my problem, we have a guy for that" - oh how I can agree with that. The school I work at had an intake of new teachers at the start of September, most newly qualified & straight out of uni. One of them decided that the IT support dept (me) was there to do everything concerning IT. The classic was 'I need file 'x' moving from the Maths dept folder to the Temporary network folder by 2pm today (this was at 1:45). When I phoned him and asked what his problem was (I was thinking lost network connection on the laptop or mebbe the wireless was down???) I was told that 'moving files is IT's job, I'm a teacher so I teach, you're IT so do IT stuff!'
Needless to say the file got 'lost' in the move
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Also called the "not my problem, we have a guy for that" syndrome where people seem to actively forget how to even open a window if they reckon there might be someone they can goad into doing it for them.
Or they can't be arsed to do it. The wife is like that, I'll be seated with my laptop, she'll be up and wandering about (closer to the kitchen than I am), and she'll head towards the bedroom and ask if I could get her a glass of icewater...
"Or they can't be arsed to do it. The wife is like that, I'll be seated with my laptop, she'll be up and wandering about (closer to the kitchen than I am), and she'll head towards the bedroom and ask if I could get her a glass of icewater..."
Err... You can give my number to your wife. I'll gladly bring her a glass of ice water.
I was going to mention that - its a little booby trap that Intel saw fit to include in their drivers for the last few years. I have had many phone calls saying , just like in the article , "The screens upside down!"
Trying to explain to a user how to press Ctrl Alt arrow keys over the phone can be taxing , so you end up having to remote the machine to do it for them .
All because these hotkeys are live by default , and easy to hit by accident apparently - must happen when they are tying to ctrl-alt-del.
My cat has found the keystroke combination to turn off wi-fi on my laptop.
Fortunately, the setting does not persist across sessions; because I have yet to discover the keystroke combination to turn it back on.
Have you ever tried repeating an error message back to a user, verbatim? It's amazing, if not a bit worrying, just how often they understand the same words when they are coming from a human as opposed to a machine. "It didn't recognise the username or the password. It's asking you to try again."
I remember a good-natured feud between a couple of developers here many years ago. It culminated on one of them hijacking the others machine and...
...hiding all the desktop icons
...switching the wallpaper to an image with the desktop icons on it
...swapping the left and right mouse buttons over
...changing mouse orientation so that moving it upwards on the desk moved the pointer roughly south-west on the desktop
...removing the ball from the mouse (yes, this was many years ago)
...and, IIRC, removing Control Panel
For desktops, a bluetooth dongle on the back connected to a wireless mouse (or keyboard) can be hours of fun, too. Days even, if you're careful enough not to get caught.
Heck, didn't even need a computer for that. My half-sister was visiting, watching TV, and didn't realize we had two remotes for the cable box. So I stood on the other side of the room and kept changing the channel.
These days it's playing tricks with YouTube on the PS3 or WiiU. When my daughter is obsessively watching Minecraft or Roblox videos (or other stupid gameplay videos) I'll start casting Hatsune Miku videos to it from my tablet.
• replace the mouse cursor bitmap with one that is nothing but transparency
• set the Windows "click" sound (plays pretty much whenever you click on anything) to the Windows 3.1 tada sound, then remove write access to the section of the registry where the sound bindings are stored. I haven't done this in a while, but it used to be that changing the sound back would seem to work, but would do nothing
• there used to be a registry option that would force the user to agree to terms and conditions upon login, so you could pretty much force the user to agree to anything
• there used to be a registry setting that allowed the window manager (or whatever it is called) to be changed to an arbitrary program. Also, up until at least XP, the old one from 3.1 was available
• modern Macs have an obscure key combination that will invert the colours. This persists across reboots.
I seem to be having some difficulty deciding whether there is a genuine crowd of notable size that somehow honestly never encountered several of what must be the literal top ten of most common computer-related hijinks / "you won't believe the stupidity" anecdotes, or else the sarcasm levels this weekend are just too damn high...
Changing a user's login script on the Prime to provide amusing prompts and error messages, not to mention remapping keys so their console would type gibberish or sound beep tones was my contribution.
Their fault for not changing the default password that was easily guessable...
@DropBear re "you won't believe the stupidity" anecdotes
I like to think I've seen it all but that "mouse upside down" really is new on me. You'd think even a chimp in the zoo would sort that out themselves.
But apart fom that, I've seen it all:
I've seen things you people wouldnt believe....
machines left on for 90 days with 2 dozen users logged in
users switching the monitor off and on when told to reboot.
users reporting "boot sector not found" as "I cant get my email"
users reporting "PC wont boot" during power cut
users thinking printing stuff out , then OCR ing it back in , is acceptable data storage solution
users using floppy discs because they refuse to learn to navigate folders on network drives.
users incapable of typing the same word twice in order to set a password.
users complaining that a dead pixel on their screen is a H&S hazard
users lying about having "turned it off and on again"
the comedy never ends...
"I like to think I've seen it all but that "mouse upside down" really is new on me. You'd think even a chimp in the zoo would sort that out themselves."
Agreed they really ought to be able to figure it out, but those of us who remember the mice first appearing on peoples desks at least have a little sympathy. For a user who's never seen one before, they have a 50:50 chance of guessing right first time. Those that think about it have a slightly slower chance of getting it right first time. It's a "mouse" right? So obviously the "head" goes to the front and the tail goes to the back, right?
Then there's getting the brain to understand the weird paradigm shift required to move the point around the screen by moving the hand around the desk. The vast majority of those users had probably never even played video games before. Remember, before Windows and Macs, many office jobs were not on the computer, not all office staff had a PC on their desk.
Despite that slight level of sympathy back in the "old" days, I'm still flabbergasted by the stupidity of some users though. I've seen most of your list and many other incredibly stupid things :-)
"I seem to be having some difficulty deciding whether there is a genuine crowd of notable size that somehow honestly never encountered several of what must be the literal top ten of most common computer-related hijinks / "you won't believe the stupidity" anecdotes, or else the sarcasm levels this weekend are just too damn high..."
It's only just after September. The new intake of kids has arrived!
(No one has mentioned the original prank though. Turn the brightness and contrast all the way down. Of course, most of the young'uns today won't understand that since LCD/OLEDs etc don't go blank when you do that. You need a CRT screen which they've only seen in "old" TV shows :-)
"...switching the wallpaper to an image with the desktop icons on it"
I knew someone who did that, deliberately, on their own desktop. He was a security guy, and a colleague had chided him for not locking his machine when away from his desk . (Cos it's always a good idea to score points off the security guys, isn't it?) She said she'd "do something to it" if he did it again.
So he set it up, then left his machine and simply walked across to the other side of the large open-plan office. From where he had an excellent view of her trying to "do something to it", and becoming more and more flustered as nothing happened....
Reminds me of a popular bat script I left on a network share in Uni that opened popup dialog boxes labelled:
"10,000 green bottles, sitting on a wall..."
"9,999 green bottles, sitting on a wall..."
"9,998 green bottles, sitting on a wall..."
They only clicked on the "Exam Papers - Faculty Access Only!" once...
(Mines the one with the notepad in the pocket)
Ah yes the classics. Once I once redirected a colleague's firefox shortcuts to a batch file that shut down the computer after 5 minutes. Was hilarious watching him run virus scanners etc, until I finally owned up :)
Did something similar to a Mr Hotshot at our office some years back. He'd usually come in later than everyone else, so I put the "BSOD screensaver" on the WinNT server he was setting up. Everyone else knew what I had done with it, and we all got a laugh as he tried all morning to figure out why it kept crashing. Didn't occur to him that the system shouldn't have come back to a working desktop once you touched the KB/mouse. Finally just as he was about to wipe the system and reinstall, I offered to help troubleshoot it, went into the screensaver settings (while he was sitting there) and changed the screensaver.
I did a similar thing to one guy back in the days of running Windows 3.1, all the setting where saved to thw WIN.INI file, and then making the file read only.
He'd come in, moan like hell about his desktop being all wrong etc, he'd spend about 20 minutes making things right but all the changes never stayed for the next day.
Took him over a week to finial twig what was wrong.
Once the USB attached peripherals took over from PS2 connections, it became trivially easy to connect more than one keyboard and mouse to a PC.
In an office of back to back cubicles, if done with some subtlety, this could provide hours of enjoyment, as the victim's keyboard and mouse apparently did random things.
Like the mouse ever so slowly drifting diagonally across the screen, or the keyboard sometimes adding random letters, but not necessarily the same ones.
swapping the left and right mouse buttons over
When my dad was diagnosed with Parkinsons, it was mostly affecting his right-hand side. So much so that he didn't have sufficient control to do the fine mouse movements so he just swapped to using his left hand. But he didn't bother to remap the mouse buttons - which caused some mild hilarity when I first tried to fix his computer..
 He also trained himself to write with his left hand. THe biggest pain was re-registering his signature with the various banks and credit cards since his new signature didn't resemble his old one in any way, shape or form.
My coworkers would send out inappropriate, embarrassing emails.
I once passed one of the culprits in the hall headed in the direction of my office.
Continued on for a few seconds until the light bulb came on, turned around and ran back to my office - but too late.
Some people are always awaiting that opportunity..
Last two weeks I've had
done to my PC while I left it unattend, a screengrab of my desktop in picture viewer fullscreen. You can move the mouse pointer but can't click on anything. The screengrab has to be in a folder on it's own.
I've done the ctrl-alt arrow to two IT trainees.
And afterwards had a user do the ctrl-alt arrow to themselves.
First had the ctrl-alt arrow done to me by my boy when he was a toddler
Screengrab with an application open in a window set as a wallpaper so it looks like you have a application open you can't close.
Years ago I wrote a little program with the X close disabled and a close button which would randomly move on mouse over event to prank my flat mate. Can't remember what message it displayed.
Also one which screengrabbed the screen then displayed it full screen while moving it to create a shake effect.
In the days of DOS, a colleague was away for a day or two. I took his monitor (CRT of course) apart and swapped the scan coil connections, vertical and horizontal, and scattered his disk with files called MIRROR.BAT & RORRIM.COM and such. In the end he gave up and had to ask...
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"Yeah, you'd probably want to bolt the desk to the floor too. Just to be safe."
You would also need to screw their chair to the floor on that side of the desk."
Probably just prefer to bolt the MD to the floor. It's the only way to be safe.
That said, I had one user who I'd have happily screwed to the floor...
I'd suggest that any user unable to tell which end of the mouse to hold is unqualified to use a computer in the first place
As I said, we have someone here who only uses the mouse in an upside-down fashion. Doesn't complain that the cursor is moving the wrong way though, that's just how they've been told and always have used it.
"I'd suggest that any user unable to tell which end of the mouse to hold is unqualified to use a computer in the first place"So you knew exactly and perfectly how to use a computer before any instruction whatsoever? You're a complete fucking genius... I'll bet you invented the Internet as well.
Ummm, the story (sorry, article) said the mouse tail was pointing towards the user. Which doesn't just necessitate relabelling the buttons, it involves either pressing them with the palm of your hand (damned near impossible to operate a two-button mouse correctly that way) or taking your hand off the mouse to use them.
The Reader's stories of their sexual conquests, sorry, On Call articles, of the old days were much more plausible. We don't swallow just anything...
it involves either pressing them with the palm of your hand (damned near impossible to operate a two-button mouse correctly that way) or taking your hand off the mouse to use them.
No, it involves moving the mouse with your fingertips, with your palm on the desk (in our colleague's case, at least. Can't speak for the user mentioned in the article). Actually given how we get told to use trackballs instead of mice because RSI, it might be better, come to think of it.
I'm ambidextrous with mice and tend to use them right handed at home and left handed at work. For a while in a previous job the other two developers were both left handed but one used a right hand mouse with standard buttons, the other used a left hand mouse with reversed buttons and I used left handed mouse with standard buttons. The mouse on servers was hardly ever in the right place when you needed to fiddle, but it was easy to tell who had been fiddling last.
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Yeah I mostly use the mouse in my off (left) hand, without switching the buttons. It takes very little time to get used to.
I do this because I often work with a steam-driven paper & pen on the right side of my machine, on the grounds that while I can use a mouse left-handed I need to write right-handed.
TBF it does lead to some grumbling and noisy "putting the mouse back on the correct side" from other users in the house...
Our occupational nurse advised that the mouse should be used with the opposite hand to that which is your dominant keyboard hand. There was some RSI reason I think
More likely it's a pornhub reason. If you're using your dominant hand on the joystick then the other hand has to operate the mouse.
YMMV. (your masturbation may vary)
I'm right handed but switched to using left handed keyboards 15+ years ago, with the keypad on the left the mouse sits closer to the centre and that was enough to stop my mouse RSI. Wish I'd bought more of the keyboards, down to just 1 spare and changing keyboards is a chore, especially ones with different layout.
I've not tried the two mice, one computer trick, however I do have two mice on my desk - one to the left of my keyboard (I'm left-handed), which is the one I use for most things, one to the right, which is connect to a Mac that I use for a couple of Mac-only applications. It's always amusing to watch people move the wrong one, and wonder why nothing is happening.
Incidentally, my ex-girlfriend is right handed but uses a mouse left handed - back in the early 90s she was used to using only a keyboard (she had a PCW8256 at home, and her work terminals really were terminals), and when she started using my computer with a mouse, naturally it was on the left side of the keyboard, and that's how she got used to using it.
Another right-handed user who uses the mouse in his left hand here.
It was out of self-defense: my right hand was typing, using the keypad, and moving the mouse, and my hand hurt. Moving one of those tasks (the mouse) over to my left hand reduced the stress on my right.
It only took a day to get used to it. I didn't bother to switch buttons as I didn't want to bother switching them back if someone else was in the driver's seat.
"I can see why you're called Pompous Git...Apple mice have only one button. I have two Logitech and one MS mouse here that have a scroll wheel, but no buttons as such. Like Nick Kew who comments elsewhere in this thread, the use of a mouse did not come easily to me. It's also worth noting that while it's amusing to watch a mouse-user manipulating a stylus and digitiser for the first time, I would never mock, or humiliate them. YMMV...
Left and right click must be odd if you use the mouse backwards no?"
I don't mind you taking my name in vain, but it seems I may have given a misleading impression:
Like Nick Kew who comments elsewhere in this thread,
I didn't say I had difficulty, merely that I had to figure it out. I don't think it took more than a few seconds. I think we were both saying the same thing: it's not entirely obvious how to hold a mouse until you've tried. Not everyone has the mindset to figure such things out.
As it happens, twenty odd years on from that first exposure to a mouse, I did experience difficulty using one, due to an RSI. So I learned to use a mouse left-handed. That took a bit of effort at first: a little more than, say, switching between left-hand- and right-hand-traffic.
Funny video. Makes sense even though I don't speak Norwegian.
Made even more sense because I had the type of mindset that pays attention to minor details and allows me to figure things out. Did you link to that particular upload of that sketch to see how many people had that sort of mindset? Or did you just not notice the version with English subtitles?
Carrying out a remote session on someone's machine where the mouse is configured for left hand use is brilliant. You don't realise how often you click (left or right) without thinking and trying to do this conciously with a 'backwards' mouse is really hard, especially when you don't have the visual clue of the mouse being on the other side of the keyboard.
Left and right click must be odd if you use the mouse backwards no?
Nopes, she's used to it. The wheel isn't a problem either, as more and more people are used to scrolling the "wrong" way due to touchscreens. No, the weirdest thing (to me) is the direction of the moves. I mean, OK you can train yourself to move right to go left but she's equally fine with touchpads, which go in the "right" direction. Oh well. As long as the works gets done, there's no wrong way to use your tools, I suppose.
Nominally I would agree, however I ran a migration of legacy Z/OS keyboard driven dumb terminals onto NT4 as late as 2005. Besides everything that is wrong with that statement, a significant number of older employees had never picked up a mouse before; and that played a major part in persuading management that it was worth including Solitaire in the build to teach basic mouse skills.
I started with teletype terminals on a DECSystem 10 - on a flexy floor in Digitals Maynard HQ (old Civil War era woolen mill. Floors were independently suspended so the big weaving machines didn't transmit vibrations between floors. It was very soothing - as you got into the right rhythm the machines would start rocking back and forth, encouraging you to rock back and forth yourself. When a heavy cart came down the hallway, an up and down motion was introduced, amplifying as the cart neared, dieing down as it passed. I kind of missed that as the VT30 (with the "gunshot" carriage return) and the VT05 terminals came out.
It sounds like a very inexperienced microscopist. The image in the eyepiece is upside down already.
I used to help out as a demonstrator for a pollen analysis course (not my job but there weren't enough of the regular staff with the knowledge). This was the first time in about 2 1/2 years into a degree course that students had had to set up a microscope for maximum resolution; at least it felt like that. So they were shown how to set up the Kohler illumination etc. You could guarantee that the first thing to do when called over to help with an identification was to set the microscope up properly, even if you'd done that only a few minutes earlier.
When I was the technician in a medical teaching lab one of the (many) things I had to do was look after 90 microscopes. You don't want to know what atrocities students can perpetrate on microscopes. Amongst other things, we had to call in the Leitz engineer to lock the lenses in place (he actually tightened them up supertight with a pair of rubber-coated pliers) to stop the students nicking them. And these were medical students - supposedly the creme de la creme.
Ah the 70's I miss them sometimes.
"we had to call in the Leitz engineer to lock the lenses in place"
Back then even the sales guys were techies. We had one new microscope, actually the new top-of-the-range job, as a loaner to try to sell it to us. The objectives weren't par-focal. One was one of the 0.95 NA Plan Apo dry lenses so that couldn't be touched, but when the salesman rolled up and we told him he took the 10x out, adjusted the internal components to fix it and locked them in place with a smidge of SWMBO's nail varnish.
"to stop the students nicking them. And these were medical students - supposedly the creme de la creme."
I was in Halls with medical students - it brought an air of reality to any subsequent dealings with the profession. The Leitz salesman left a sample of a new Fluroite 0.90NA with us on approval one time which I've still got somewhere. It wasn't a patch on the Plan Apos. They didn't want it back, I think it never went into production.
A fair chunk of my working life was spent looking down Leitz microscopes. Beautiful pieces of kit.
I had a similar issue, working in a different industry.
I used to install audio equipment in customers homes and in most cases, I never saw the customer again.
However one married, mature lady customer was bought a hi-fi system by her "often-away-from-home" husband and I was called back on numerous occasions, when her lack of technical "nowse" caused the system to stop working.
As a young male in my early 20's, it was an interesting experience, going to her home and "fixing the stereo"...
BTW: her name wasn't Mrs Robinson ;-)
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I also worked in the same field. A previous employee of the company I worked for had been charged wit rape by a customer who changed her mind after he had left.
I therefore had no interest in taking up any of the offers I received.
Anybody who visits a customers home and indulges in anything untoward take note.
I am just reminded of some traps us programmers set on some DOS machines. We were testing some code to write our own interrupt handlers, especially for keyboard and mouse event handling (early days, few useful libraries about), and to trap interrupts generated by some real-time data acquisition hardware we had made. Just for laughs, we wrote a little program called CRASH.EXE. This simply redirected interrupt 9 (keyboard) to our own handler, which did nothing, whatever key was pressed. After that, it printed a helpful message on the screen that your system had crashed. Pressing ctrl-alt-del didn't work, of course, so a hard reset was the only option to get out of the situation. Given that MS-DOS was single-tasking, this never resulted in data loss or anything. We put CRASH.EXE among the other executables of our users' systems, and it was instructive to see how almost all users were sufficiently inquisitive to see what command CRASH would do. As a result, I could pose a simple question to many users who came for assistance to "uncrash" their machines: "What did you THINK crash would do?" Inaudible mumbles were the usual replies.
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I was involved in writing a Windows install program to replace the previous DOS one. It was controlled by parameters in a text file. Thus it was quite easy to produce a version offering four items on the menu:<P>
1) Install a bug<br>
2) Install a virus<br>
3) Perform a random action<br>
Regardless of which one was pressed, a dialog box appeared saying "Please wait while Windows deletes your valuable data ... "<p>
As could be expected, a salesman took my machine to use for a demo while I was not looking.<p>
After that, my computer tended to stay where I put it!
"What did you THINK crash would do?"
For a certain significant portion of the population, the monkey brain comes to the fore. Wet Paint? Really?
Properly directed of course, they may become brilliant scientists, but most will be the type that presses the big red button marked Do Not Press!
Reminds me of the time when I was working in a studio on Mac II's.
I hooked up a spare mouse up to a colleague's spare ADB port and removed the track ball. Over the next couple of weeks, I drove him absolutely wild by occasionally sticking my finger in the carefully hidden mouse and giving one of the rollers a little spin to send his pointer up or down the screen. Not helpful when you're trying to use Adobe Illustrator.
Needless to say he went absolutely MENTAL when he found out. Fun times...
Way back we had terminals with an internal PSU that supplied -12V GND +5V +12V.
Took a 6 inch 12V fan and superglued a threaded nut to one blade so it was way off balance, cable-tied it loosely to the underside of the operators desk and wired it across the -12V and +12V.
When the terminal was powered on the off balance fan hammered against the bottom of the desk and it almost started walking across the floor.
This reminds me of a trick we used to play on folks back in a previous life/career cycle.
We'd remove the back of the old CRT monitors and rotate the deflection coils on the neck of the tube by 180 degrees before reassembling. We'd then turn the screen upside down on top of the user's PC.
Cue much hilarity when the user would arrive at their desk, turn the screen the right way up then boot their PC and wonder why the display was upside down :)
My mum works as a dinner lady and was on an IT 101 course at work, where the instructor showed her team how to access the company intranet and corp email, that sort of thing. Everything is going fine until the instructor asks everyone to move their cursor to the top right of the screen to close Outlook. My mum's colleague (she swears blind this is true) actually picked up her mouse, plonked it into position on the monitor and then complained that nothing was happening. My mum is made of stronger stuff than me and managed to explain to her how a mouse works without sarcasm or anything.
"My mum's colleague (she swears blind this is true) actually picked up her mouse, plonked it into position on the monitor and then complained that nothing was happening."
Whilst this is a common luser event, you can get some weird effects when changing technologies.
5 years ago when I got my first touchscreen tablet I'd been using it for 2 weeks solid whilst travelling, then plonked into a chair in front of the computer at home. It took about 10 seconds of fruitlessly stabbing at the screen trying to login before the lightbulb moment.
I had to "apologise" for being late in one winter morning as when I started my car, 5 seconds later the rear windscreen just exploded.
- Wow, what's that load bang behind me? look in the mirror and the glass is all smashed with a large hole in one corner ... I thought I'd just been shot at!
My manager (director of IT, though with no qualification or experience whatsoever) decides I need a lecture because, y'know, I must've just got off the boat.
PHB: "oooo, that car must have a twisted chassis, it must have been in an accident, you need to sue the person who sold it to you"
Me: "I bought it brand new, off the forecourt"
PHB: "Are you sure?"
Me: "I think I remember. "
PHB: "Still, you should contact the dealer"
Me: "It was four years ago. "
PHB: "Maybe it's a manufacturing defect"
Me: "Maybe, but after four years and no recall or notice I'm going to have a hard time proving that, my insurance will repair it anyway. "
PHB: "Still, follow my advise"
Me: "Sure, thanks"
All the time I could see his secretary behind him shaking her head in despair, apparently he was making her write endless letters to a garage that had serviced his company car because 3 weeks later he'd had a puncture and "it must be their fault".
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he had earlier miss-hit some control key sequences - and the file was now encrypted with an unknown pass phrase of the subsequent text.
Wow, you'd need to be typing some very strange stuff while not looking at your monitor for at least a dozen keystrikes for that to actually happen in Vi. Oh, and you'd have to quit edit mode to enter command mode, which (unsurprisingly) involves a a key that is not used often. Usually escape, but I guess if you were really, erm, special you could set it to the "e" key and type in the ASCII code for "e" each time you needed to input that letter. Unsurprisingly, I'm not aware of anyone using that setup in the real world, but hey, there's no such thing as "probability zero". After all, I'm told some people devote a lot of time to chucking insults in Klingon at each other while banging bat'leths.
In emacs its just C-z M-e M-Tab, followed by your keyword.
And Enter, presumably ? I'm not very familiar with Emacs, but it's similar in Vi, and I stand by my words; please feel free to fire up Emacs and actually try it -from edit mode- in fewer that a dozen strikes (assuming here that you don't use a single-character keyword) and without hitting a key that you wouldn't use in normal non-command typing. I'd be happy to see the answer, as that would be yet another reason to say that Vi is superior to Emacs (which is obvious to begin with but heh :P )
I would try it myself but for some reason I am a bit reluctant. Wasting a few hundred MB of valuable disk space to install an inferior editor* just to make a point in El Reg comments does not rank very high in my to-do list. Not until I get (more) seriously bored anyway :D
* prflblblblblblb also yo momma's so fat she could install Emacs on her underbelly without anyone noticing.
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He mistakenly invoked the vi :x command for file encryption.
OK I'll bite
[random text relevant to the file being edited, and that will be taken as the keyword]
During all this, including the saving and closing, you need to not have looked at your monitor even once to check that your input is correct. That's at the very least 7 keystrikes not accounting for the keyword, so a very minimum of 8 keystrikes for a 1-character keyword (OK, seven if you condense the last 2 commands) if you do it purposedly. If you didn't mean to do exactly that, the random text is likely to be longer than 1 char, hence my "dozen".
Unless of course you were just hammering away in a tool that you don't undertand, in which case it's similar to hitting "by mistake" ctrl-a delete ctrl-s [enter] in, say, MSWord. All without looking. Only harder in Vi. While there is is no such thing as "probability zero", Vi users tend to have chosen the tool, and thus understand that command mode is meant to issue commands. That's why I was impressed by the level of gormlessness involved in the scenario.
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The person was a very experienced vi user who could touch type at some speed. This was about 30 years ago. I suspect he was typing ahead on a very slow response remote connection - so could not see the effect of his keystrokes for several seconds.
Excuses. You do not type :wq [Enter] in Vi without having checked what you were saving. Period. Even if that means waiting for several seconds for the feedback to come from the distant system.
Actually, it's funny to imagine that we will see a revival of these "slow connection ate my homework" anecdotes as more and more people use Office360, GoogleDocs and the like, where a dropped connection and a split second of inattention can mean that you either clicked the wrong button or did something you never wanted to do, due to slow GUI update. Plus ça change...
Not that you seem them these days, but have you seen a copy typist at work? They don't look at the monitor or keyboard until they stop to turn the page. Some can have a conversation at the same time, I'd be typing parts of the conversation.
Had a secretary tell me yesterday, she was doing audio typing and when she looked back at the screen from looking round the office she wondered where the rest of the document had gone as only the last bit of typing she had done was left in the document. She worked out the she had accidently pressed ctrl-N instead of ctrl-B
which on more modern versions of vi and vim is "Save and exit" (aka :wq)
vs :X - "which is encrypt this file"
Easy enough mistake to make and a classic example of a UI fail - the result is that the passphrase is probably a case-swapped version of the command the user intended to enter after exiting vi
Many years ago, I gave my mum her first PC (an old one of mine) and sat with her for her 1st PC lesson. I told her, "use the mouse to move the pointer on the screen"
She picked up the mouse and started sliding it around the screen on the monitor saying "its not working"
It's easy to laugh at mouse stories, but I remember the "Computing in Medical Laboratories" thing that we hosted in the 80's where guys who were at the cutting edge of Labsystem development (from Norfolk if I remember correctly) were harumphing about those new-fangled mouse things.
"I would turn them over and use them as a trackball" they said...
As an aside, our current labsystem is completely mouse-free once you've clicked on it's icon to fire it up...
As an aside, our current labsystem is completely mouse-free once you've clicked on it's icon to fire it up...
in my experience, for long-term use of the same tool, keyboard-only is always more efficient, including for image or video editing applications. Of course said application has to allow for keyboard control, and with the current trend towards extreme infantilisation of IT users we now see applications (including "serious" scientific stuff) that are designed like toddler toys with bright and large colorful shapes and rounded corners as the only means of interaction ; of course these need to be clicked on -or better, punched on-screen- and are not KB-accessible, because UX means we're all back to kindergarten for some reason.
"in my experience, for long-term use of the same tool, keyboard-only is always more efficient, including for image or video editing applications. Of course said application has to allow for keyboard control"Try this then. Fire up CorelDRAW! Use a Wacom stylus/digitiser to sign your name. Now do the same again using the keyboard. Selecting and duplicating the first object is cheating.
FWIW I find having a rich set of keyboard commands and a pointing device to be more efficient than either device alone.
Use a Wacom stylus/digitiser to sign your name.
That's not a pointing device then, but a drawing one. And in your use case a pen/paper/scanner would actually be more cost-efficient than a Wacom. But I get you point. When drawing stuff that is not easily mathematically modeled or digitally imaged, a drawing device is indeed useful.
Once the signature is digitized, though, duplicating it using only kb shortcuts is not cheating but efficiency :P
In my defence, that's not something I do very often hence the "in my experience" statement, and a mouse is not terribly useful at that either (hence your Wacom reference, I suppose)...
Still, have an upvote for reminding me to never * say always again.
*drats, did it again, didn't I ?
FWIW I find having a rich set of keyboard commands and SEVERAL pointing devices to be more efficient than either device alone.
At one point I had 2 mice (left/right side), a keyboard-mounted trackpad, trackball and Wacom digitiser attached to my system.
It used to annoy the cat who liked to sit on whatever device I was using in order to get attention.
Back in the Windows 95 days i was sitting next to the helpdesk when a call came in.
The user was irate as some magic had rotated his screen display 90Deg and he was in the middle of something important.
My mate the helpdesk guy asked the usual questions, did you do anything, install anything, no, no was the response, something just happened.
We had never seen a rotated display before but by craning necks and getting into the video control panel we found an option to rotate the display, and one quick settings change and natural order was restored.
He had just barely time to close the call before we collapsed to the floor laughing.
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That rotation option is bloody handy when you want to put a monitor at a high location (ceiling mounted displays, etc). Apart from the mounting options it gives, most LCD monitors are setup so the polarisers give best vewability for a user whose eye angle is above the centreline of the monitor (usually 30-60 degrees)(*)
Having a high-mounted monitor "right way up" used to frequently result in displays with an unviewable contrast or with wierd colour blooming depending what angle you looked up at them from.
If you have a "wall of monitors" on your desk then the same trick makes the upper row(s) easier to deal with, without having them tilted at wild angles.
(*) How many readers just ducked their heads down below the centreline of their monitor to verify what I just said?
When I was working for a TV equipment manufacturer, one of the image processing scientists had a film clip that they used for image quality testing. To decouple the image from reality, this was turned upside down. One Friday we went down to his office to see if he was coming to the pub. He wasn't around, but this clip was playing on a rather expensive, broadcast quality monitor. We decided to fix this by turning the monitor upside-down (hard work, those things were heavy). When he reappeared, it took him a couple of minutes to spot what we had done. We all had a laugh, and then turned the monitor back over. Then we realised that the screen had become magnetised, and there were nasty colour fringes everywhere. A couple of degausses helped, but didn't cure it.
What was to be done? We went to the pub. When we came back the monitor had settled, and we were all very relieved.
"Then we realised that the screen had become magnetised, and there were nasty colour fringes everywhere."
This is the same reason that CRTs on airliners (or personal TV moved between countries) always end up with colour fringing. You have to set the thing up for the local planetary magnetic field and if that changes (or you turn the screen upside down) then you have to start over.
Anyone working in TV manufacturing learns this very quickly and noone would be stupid enough to invert an expensive studio monitor unless they've already been fired.
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Yeah, when intelligent people have simple computer problems, it does tend to come off as inauthentic -- like they're too aristocratic to "play secretary" or something.
But it's a problem with anything you know very well. I can't tolerate fellow singers who can't read music, for example. Like literacy is a burden, and no adult can be expected to have such a skill. It seems so bizarre. Contrived and irresponsible, even.
I have to remind myself that ignorance about a thing is normal, and knowledge about that thing is the contrived part. I remind myself that I don't put air in my own tires, and I don't change my own oil.
That doesn't usually work. That's where the booze comes in.
Yesterday the power went out (unbeknownst to me) and my wonderful wife with iPhone in hand complained to me that out WiFi wasn't working. So she rolled over and handed me the iPhone and I attempted to look for WiFi to no avail. The next complaint was that the charger wasn't working either. This usually happens when I switch off the outlet connected to the light on her size of the sleeping apparatus (there is a switch on my side). So I flick the switch and hope that the light comes on. Nope that doesn't work either. I then "rise and shine" and look around. No power. Not a good thing.
So, yes, it can take a few minutes to realize that the power is out, and it did happen to me.
My 85yo step-father has a mac - a replacement to one I bought him about 10 years ago to escape the torrent of viruses and piss-poor performance...
any way... I pop around every few months to run Onyx and update any security bits and bobs - I never touch a file or change any settings...
every time I get a phone call of my mother a few hours later about "how upset" my step father is and "what have I done" because "a website doesn't work"...
apparently I break the internet everytime I touch his computer?
I've no idea what key combination actives 'Landscape (flipped)' in Display settings but my 2 year old grandson hits the right combination within seconds of getting at my keyboard when my attention is elsewhere. I always struggle to right click on the mouse and manoeuvre it around when everything is reversed. Never thought of turning the mouse around, I usually try and turn my head upside down!
I worked in an open plan office once. Went in to work one morning and the screens on several machines, including mine, say "no signal" so I turned my box on, it booted up to the desktop etc and off I went. Meanwhile the manager and a bunch of confused colleagues are panicking because several machines are "down". I ask her what the problem is (she's on hold to the IT department) and she says "we've gotta get this no signal problem fixed, a panic stricken look on her face. I said" I just fixed mine". "What, how?" was her reply. "I turned the machine on". The look on her face as she quickly put the phone down was beyond priceless.
I once had a co-op student working for me. She used an X terminal. One day she said something was wrong so I went and looked. There was a flying saucer that would grab the cursor every 30 seconds and drag it back to a base at the upper left corner of the screen. I burst out laughing and looked around for some other co-ops who had smirks on their faces. I told them, "Great hack - now turn it off."
The X protocol wasn't very secure in those days.
Back in the early 90s at uni I was lucky enough to be exposed to the venerable SPARC workstation. The early optical mice on these required a specific mouse mat in order to work. Since the mat had an isometric pattern to determine the direction of travel much fun was to be had walking round the SPARC suite turning these mats upside-down, which made the mouse pointer, particularly of 1st year students, travel at an angle of 60 degrees from the horizontal, while maintaining the correct vertical travel. I believe they eventually glued the mouse mats down...
I cant remember anything I used the SPARC for but I do remember that.
"I cant remember anything I used the SPARC for"
A male, in the early 90s, at Uni, with access to a SPARC? I can guess ... Swearing at vi and being confused over EMACS; hanging out on IRC (and possibly your choice of MUD/MUSH/MOO); playing Nethack and/or Adventure; trying to get <insert pirated game code here> to compile; reading various USENET groups (and "accidentally" managing to configure the machine to accept alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.*); compiling & fiddling about with NCSA Mosaic; possibly mucking about with SATAN and thinking you were very, very cool ... basically, anything but using the machine to help you with your studies.
How'd I do?
 For values of "early 90s" that include 1995, of course.
I once had a clueless colleague complain that his mouse wasn't working. I naturally assumed fluff or gunk stopping the rollers turning, but turned round to discover he had the mouse on top of a 3.5" floppy and was sliding the pair round the desk and wondering why the cursor wasn't moving!!
Yeah, had several of such cases with my customers. The one of best/worst one was an Apple Fanboi, who had to use a brand new Windows PC on the job despite his pleas with this "higher ups" to get him a shiny Mac, and that new setup included a brand new high end wireless 3 button scroll mouse. After the setup was done, he claimed in presence of one of this bosses that he wouldn't need any help/instructions with the new system from me, as he used to "work with computers for years". Moved on to said bosses office to start and set up his new laptop...
Barely a couple of minutes in the bosses office and the fanboi called and complained loudly (could he every word, even though the call wasn't on speaker phone!) to his boss that this Windows PC is all s**t and doesn't work. The mouse would always move in the wrong direction and not taking his attempts to click the mouse button.
The boss walked with me back over to this bozo, where I then simply turned the mouse with the 3 mouse buttons pointing forward, explaining him that he had to click the left one for normal selection and after a first attempt of objections from him, showed him how he can get nicely context menus when clicking on the right mouse key, much better than trying to hammer his fingers on the top side battery compartment when facing the mouse the wrong way. And the scroll button would also much easier to operate this way. Neither he nor his boss said a word at that point and I went back to set up the laptop for the boss.
When I got back into that office on my next visit a couple weeks later, needless to say, fanboi wasn't working in that office anymore...
When the VT100 (Digital Equipment Corporation) came out, it was designed for VERY easy service. Which also meant very easy physical hacking. Pop the top off and the magnetic yoke on the back of the tube could be rotated at will. Wise engineers will make sure there is no charge in the system by shorting some key points to earth - but a feature of the VT100 was that there were very few capacitors in there - not like older video terminals (or television tubes).
The yoke had a single screw clamp - easy to loosen with about a half twist of a screwdriver. Tilt the display whichever way you wanted.
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